Sound — 9
Kid A, released in 2000 after getting over the growing pains of OK Computer, is an album unlike any other of their contemporaries. No videos were made, no singles distributed. Absolutely no press or touring. Yet it was released at #1 here in America. Early demo leaks on the internet had partly to do with that, but one reason is that sonically it seems like a whole other band on this record. The employment of electronics angered some of the guitar-rock purists of "The Bends" or "OK" periods. Some even accused Radiohead of hopping the "electronica bandwagon." Gone (though as we learned, not for long) were the guitar breaks and rave ups we had always heard. Instead, filling there place were the electronic bleeps and drum machine fills, indiscernible lyrics that wee overshadowed by massive ambient sounds. There is an element of everything melding together on Kid A, the violent horns at the end of "The National Anthem" ushering in the somber "How To Disappear Completely". Even the faux-jazz jam at the end of Optimistic serves a purpose, the staccato notes of a Rhodes piano quickly following it. Guitars were mostly thrown aside for this album, but Radiohead managed to turn rockers out of some of the big tracks. In fact, I rather like the guitar part used in place of the full band at the end of "The National Anthem", along with Jonny's radio part. In fact, the first song off Kid A I had ever heard was a live version of "In Limbo", and I was struck by how loud it was compared to some of the stuff from OK Computer.
Lyrics — 8
While Thom Yorke's vocals take more of a backseat in the overall landscape Kid A creates, the writing is just as prominent as ever. Slightly cryptic ("Everything In It's Right Place"), slightly nonsensical ("Kid A"), a majority of the time they don't really paint a clear picture nor tell a precise story. Save for the relaxing "Kid A", there is feeling of discrepancy throughout the album. But for some odd reason the lyrics just seem to go perfect with the music. Only Radiohead could make the line "Dinosaurs roaming the Earth" catchy.
Overall Impression — 10
Radiohead opened up a whole new realm of rock experimentation with Kid A. Melding ideas from electronica and jazz, they still managed to keep them in a pop context. Some will argue the pop statement, but I do believe that someone listening to the album now in 2009 would find it fairly accessible. "Optimistic" and "The National Anthem" are unarguably the only rockers on the record, and even Treefingers is thought of as filler (I like it, but I do think it breaks some of the momentum of the record). But I think we can unanimously agree that Kid A is a landmark album.